Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Overcoming Homosexual Pornography (Part 1)
The following is a two-part series on overcoming homosexual pornography by Robert Brennan, director of Apokata Psychotherapy Services which is a professional network ministry of Exodus International and a professional psychotherapy service for those struggling with same-sex pornography and opposite sex pornography. He is a graduate of Western Seminary in Marriage and Family Therapy, and he regularly speaks to churches about recovery from same-sex attraction. He practices in San Francisco and Fremont California.
I have never met a man in the psychotherapy context living with same-sex attraction that did not struggle with pornography. If I ask the question, “do you want to overcome your addiction to pornography?” in most cases the answer is yes. As therapy progresses we often find out that there is a secret love for pornography that is a very difficult love relationship to give up.
We cannot simply condemn such a person for this love relationship, but we must investigate further the meaning of these attractions and why they are so strong to begin with. We must unlock the mystery of the source of temptation if we are to change behavior. If we only work towards abstinence without dealing with the source of temptation, we do a disservice to those who have chosen recovery. I have met many frustrated men who have reached out for help, latched onto good resources such as support groups, and yet not experienced sufficient change. These resources are useful as long as they are paired with the emotional investigation purposed to root out the source of temptation.
To honor the true intensity of the struggle that same-sex attracted men go through within these blog posts, you will not read about simple one-two-three steps to success. The solution is not simple and often takes in-depth work to find resolution. While the resolution is hard work, it is very possible, and men are successfully overcoming the addiction to pornography every day according to God’s sufficient grace and timing. This in-depth work can take place within ministries such as “Living Waters,” and psychotherapy by a specialist in same sex recovery.
Please realize that I will be presenting information about same sex attraction and attraction to pornography because they are so highly related and always operating simultaneously. My descriptions of men struggling with same sex attraction and pornography are typical to my work; however, they do not describe each person’s struggle. This is to say that there are many variations to my analogies because each person is different and unique.
Why the same sex is attractive
One man told me that when he is around certain attractive men who are powerful, he feels they have power over him. Whatever that powerful man may say will influence the struggler to act in a pleasing manner in order to gain the powerful man’s favor. This is an unconscious form of gaining self approval in an attempt to feel strong as a man. We could say that simply interacting with powerful people, we become powerful, at least temporarily. When these basic needs are uncovered, such as the need for approval, we are beginning to deal with the source of temptation.
This real life example is often relived in pornography via fantasy. Fantasy is the power of the mind to create symbols of love.
Our goal is to diffuse the power of these temptations by understanding what each man is seeking to get from another man in pornography. Envy is a word we often use to describe these attractions because the struggler is attempting to acquire something from the seen and unseen strengths he finds in a powerful male image. What is so attractive? It is the possibility of acquiring masculine strength from another man. When strugglers can learn to find themselves as a strong man apart from sexualizing men, then they can find a true experience of manhood and no longer need pornography to fill the masculine void.
What is it about a man that becomes so intoxicating?
Is it his physical build, his attractive face, his relaxed and easy-going manner, his confidence or simply the fact that he gives men eye contact and attention that is focused and sincere? This man often lives in the moment and exudes masculine confidence that becomes exciting for some men. To be in his presence is like a drug-high to those who find him attractive.
The struggler often feels like he is the little boy who is surrounded by a man who accepts him unconditionally. Unconditional acceptance is the great void that was not met by his father growing up and, so the boy feels he is an emotional orphan, seeking out a man who will love him. Because the man in a pornographic image can become the father he has been seeking, viewing porn is a way to artificially find that father figure. The struggler can create a fantasy that allows him to believe that the porn image is the caring father figure he is longing for, a fantasy figure that is sexually arousing.
“Envy Him”: Unfulfilled masculine development
The means by which a man struggling with same-sex attraction can begin to reduce his level of addiction to pornography is by identifying what qualities he finds attractive in other men. Those qualities are parts of the attractive man that the struggler is attempting to claim for himself via his attraction.
I find most men wanting the characteristic of confidence. The scene often described by my clients is in a restaurant where a man and woman are sitting at a table enjoying themselves. My client is attracted to the man who is calm, easy-going, and confident of himself enough to be with a woman. He relates to the woman as she admires the attractive man and seeks his undivided attention.
The goal is to identify these characteristics that the struggler wants for himself and realize that these represent very real unmet needs. For example, to be attracted to a confident man is to desire our own personal confidence. Personal confidence or masculine confidence is the need. In other words, we can say our needs are being expressed through our attraction. The reduction of pornography can be achieved when we identify our root need and learn to have it filled in a healthy way. A healthy fulfillment is to be in inclusive, accepting, and uplifting relationships that are non-sexualized.
Same sex pornography is the fantasy of a man needing an attractive man to complete the user of pornography as a man. I often ask these men what they enjoy most about pornography. Their answer is that when they view pornography they feel accepted. They feel they are in the company of someone like themselves, someone who truly understands them and therefore feels acceptable.
The root of this need to be accepted as a man begins in childhood. While I will not delineate the causations of homosexuality, a large percentage of men were rejected by their father at a young age. That rejection created a wound that these men have been attempting to heal through the approval and love of other men since childhood. When we can reconcile the issues that caused a boy to be rejected and therefore stuck in his development stage as a boy, then we will often see the need for pornography to decline. This is truly dealing with the roots of pornography.
What is reconciliation? Reconciliation takes on many forms. Sometimes it is talking about the pain for the first time to a trusted person, forgiving someone, confronting a father with the way he has wounded his son, etc. Reconciliation is different for each person.
(to be continued...)